Two convicted murderers who were released from a Florida prison using forged documents were captured Saturday night at a Panama City motel, authorities said.
Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, were taken into custody without incident about 6:40 p.m. at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said. They were arrested a few hours after family members held a news conference to urge the men to turn themselves in.
A woman who answered the phone at the motel told the Associated Press she saw police go into room 227. The woman, who didn't want to give her name, said authorities didn't stop by the office before moving in.
Jenkins and Walker were serving life sentences at the Franklin Correctional Facility in Florida's Panhandle region, about 300 miles from Orange County, where they were convicted. Jenkins was found guilty of first-degree murder in a 1998 botched robbery. Walker was found guilty of second-degree murder in the 1999 death of a man who Walker said was bullying him.
The bogus paperwork, complete with case numbers and the forged signature of a judge, duped prison officials. It purportedly reduced the men's sentences to 15 years. The two cases came to light last week, weeks after the men were freed.
After being released, the convicts went back home to Orange County, registered as convicted felons and had their fingerprints taken as is usually required in such cases, an apparent effort to decrease official concern about their actions.
Family members and friends of the men said Saturday they at first thought their release was legitimate and spent time with the two.
Henry Pearson, Jenkins' uncle, said he brought Jenkins clothes when he picked him up from prison last month and drove him to see his mother and grandmother. Pearson said he was shocked to learn Wednesday that Jenkins was not supposed to be out of prison.
Before the escapees were captured, family members pleaded with the men to turn themselves in.
"We love you. We believe in you. We just want you to surrender yourself to someone you trust who will bring you back here safely," Lillie Danzy, Walker's mother, said at the televised news conference.
Judge Belvin Perry, whose signature had been forged, said the inmates had to have had help from outside the prison. "Anyone with any computer skills can look at a document and take that document off of the Internet, lift the signature and paste it somewhere else," he told NBC's "Today" show last week. "It's very ingenious. It's a breakout without having to break out."
Walker arrived back in Orange County on Oct. 11 and Jenkins on Sept. 30, Christina Grover, a public information officer for the Orange County jail system, told The Times.
The escapes raised a number of questions that are being examined by state police and corrections officials. Legislators have called for their own investigations.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun